Mayor of The Hills Shire, Dr Michelle Byrne is calling on the Minister for Planning to scrap mandatory Independent Hearing Assessment Panels (IHAPs) now before they become a misuse of ratepayers funds.
“We believe IHAPs could cost our ratepayers approximately $132,000 per year and that’s without considering travel expenses for members or indeed staff time or administrative costs such as the preparation of business papers,” Mayor Byrne said.
“That’s a significant sum of money which has not been part of Council’s budget preparation and can only be funded by redistributing from core Local Government services like our maintenance or community services.
“I’m sure ratepayers will be upset to hear that their money has been spent on these panels when it could be better used within the community to rollout more parks, sporting fields, roads and more essential infrastructure.
“If the State Government thinks these panels are a great idea, maybe they should pay for them instead of leaving it to residents of The Hills Shire to pick up the bill,” Mayor Byrne added.
Mayor Byrne said she has reached out to the Minister for Planning to discuss her concerns on IHAPs.
“We urgently need to sit down with him to express our concerns about these panels which are ultimately made up of people who don’t necessarily understand the needs and wants of our Shire and its residents,” Mayor Byrne said.
“Our role to represent this community effectively will be diminished because of these panels.
“Residents will no longer have their local Councillors representing them on development application matters. Nor will they have independent oversight, which is one of the basic roles of Local Government.
“The Hills Shire Council has an impeccable record and works within legal parameters. To be tarred with the same brush, when only a handful of Councils have acted inappropriately, is not fair.
“The introduction of IHAPs will also impose additional pressures on our existing services and will cause delays in the approval process.
“It’s a terrible system and I encourage all Councils across Sydney to come together to protest this appalling policy,” Mayor Byrne added.
Council will discuss IHAPs at its Tuesday (February 13) meeting.